Something we need to Talk About

Sewage- It maybe a rotten, stinky business.. But somebody’s got to talk about it.

Joking aside, what do know about how our waste is disposed of, where does it go & how does it get there, how was it dealt with in the past, what’s the process & does it always come up smelling of roses somewhere.. What should you know & why should you be interested?

Well, the reason that you should know is that it affects every single one of us on the planet & what we don’t process ourselves will almost certainly become someone else’s problem somewhere else in the world! – I actually remember as a child watching what was back in those days euphemistically called ‘shit boats’ sailing their way down the river Thames, off to dump our unsavoury loads on the kind people of Europe. One an hour, all day, every day- Oh my, how I hoped that I would never have the stigma of ending up working on one of these crafts for a living.


Talking historically, early human settlements dating back at least 30,000 years ago were very nearly always built next to water sources & the local rivers served as a basic form of natural sewage removal. This was technically the first form of raw sewage treatment, (the transportation of raw sewage to a natural body of water, e.g. a river or ocean), where it would be diluted and then hopefully dissipated. These water bodies are where the archaeologists’ of today like to concentrate their efforts, as this is where you will find the ancestral lives laid out before you

Over the millennia & centuries, technology dramatically increased the distances across which water could be transferred. Furthermore, treatment processes to purify drinking water and to treat wastewater were vastly improved too. Although that said, I kind of think that we were most probably much stronger creatures back then, with a far greater resistance to the bugs & nasties that so easily take us down now days.

Moving on, the Indus Valley Civilization in South Asia (Circa 3,000 BC) clearly shows early evidence of public a water supply and sanitation– These systems, probably developed in the Indus, managed a large number of innovative features, typically all houses had their own private toilet which was connected to a covered sewer network that was constructed of brickwork & held together with a gypsum-based mortar that emptied either into the surrounding water bodies or alternatively into cesspits– The latter of which showing signs of being regularly emptied and cleaned.

As for today, we live in the age of mechanical waste processing & even in many out of town homes around the world you’ll find a built in sewage pump installed, fitted either submersively or above ground- They are incredible pieces of engineering, but the quality is variable, so if you are in the market for one just make sure to buy a reliable sewage pump– Or you could be in for a bit of a mess.